How many Mac office apps are there? Let me count the ways… the ways you can fake like you’re using Microsoft Office, but without the price tag or guilt.
Mac users have a love hate relationship with Microsoft’s gaudy Office for Mac. It keeps us tethered to compatibility with the Windows world. That’s probably a good thing. But we’re also tethered to Microsoft’s hefty price tags, bug proliferation, and cumbersome complexities. Are there alternatives?
If Not Office For Mac, What?
To be fair, I don’t truly hate Microsoft Office. It’s one of those lesser of two evils things. The first evil is using an alternative to Office. The second evil is using Office. See what I mean?
Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 is about to hit the streets.
There is much to like, to be sure.
But it’s like Keynesian Economics and depends on who you talk to as to whether it’s any good or not.
The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg, a journalistic straightshooter regarding Apple and Macintosh products if there ever was one, says about Office for Mac 2011:
While it isn’t an exact clone of Office for Windows, I found in my tests that each of its key components—Word, Excel and PowerPoint—has been significantly improved and made more compatible with its Windows sibling… Microsoft’s new Mac Office is by far the best Mac version of the suite I’ve used, and I can recommend it.
Well, some folks will do anything to get bump in Microsoft’s moribund stock price.
The New York Times’ David Pogue, yet another of the fair and even handed reviewers of all things Microsoft and Apple, takes a slightly different approach in his missive, Office for Mac Isn’t An Improvement:
In Word, as before, there’s a dialog box where you can change the keystrokes for features you use a lot. In Word 2011, however, the new assignments sometimes don’t “take.” The feature is simply broken. Microsoft says that it’s aware of all the bugs I’ve listed here, and intends to fix them early next year. (Most of the missing mail commands, however, will remain missing.)
O.K., what? You *knew* about these bugs, but you’re selling this software anyway?
Sure, other companies do that. But that doesn’t make it any less sleazy when Microsoft does it.
OK, different strokes for different folks. Since it’s officially Mac Office Suite Week, I’m obligated to give you a rundown (as opposed to run down) a few Microsoft Office wannabes.
Starting the week with an Office-like app with a price tag seems only fair. Later in the week I’ll look at other Office suites without a price tag, Apple’s iWork and, because it’ll finally be here, Microsoft’s Office for Mac 2011.
ThinkFree Office is like iTunes. It’s got the wrong name. iTunes isn’t just for tunes any more.
I’d rename iTunes to iStuff, but Steve Jobs hasn’t returned my call.
With a name like ThinkFree Office, what do you think the price is? Free? Of course, but you’d be wrong.
This $50 suite of apps for Macs, Windows and Linux PCs has three basic components. Write 4, Calc 4, and Show 4. Each is roughly comparable to Microsoft’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps, which also compete with Apple’s iWork Suite of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, respectively.
If you’ve used Microsoft Office in the past, and opened up a Mac or PC using ThinkFree Office 4, you’d be right at home. Stressed? Maybe. Tools and layouts are similar to Office, but not exactly the same.
Dig into the details of ThinkFree Office: It’s Like Office, But Not So Free, and follow along all week as I look at other Office-like suites for Mac users.
You may need a scorecard, a program, and an infomercial to tell the difference between all the Microsoft Office look-alike suites.
I found Oracle Open Office, but had difficulty finding a link to download it.
Besides there were many others available, including LibreOffice from the The Document Foundation.
LibreOffice looks and feels like a Fisher Price version of Office. Writer for Word. Calc for Excel. You get the idea, right? As with the other open office efforts, LibreOffice runs on Windows and Linux PCs, and Macs.
And it’s free. I’d like to say more, but free and Microsoft Office-like are the two main features of LibreOffice: Yet Another Mac Office Suite.
What is the future of Mac Office-wannabe suites? For example, NeoOffice: The Free Office App For Mac Users is a competent, Mac-like suite, available for mere donations.
It’s complete with a spreadsheet, a word processor, a database, a drawing app, and a presentation app. Many of the Mac and Windows Office-like suites are written in Java, and Apple is about to say goodbye to an Apple-supported Java version for OS X.
What impact will that have on the Office-like suites for Macs?
Inquiring minds want to know.
In the meantime, Apple’s iWork sells like hot cakes, and Microsoft’s Office 2011 for Mac is on the streets and priced competitively.
New with Office 2011 is a Mac version of Outlook, except in the popular Home and Student edition. I’m digging into Office 2011 now and will report as soon as my nausea goes away.
Finally, an end to the Microsoft Office Look-Alike Parade™. Take a look at Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, and Base, which form the guts of OpenOffice, the official Microsoft Office wannabe suite.
Yes, Virginia, there is a free suite of apps that have more features than Texas has red congressional districts and California has blue districts.
Is OpenOffice any better or worse than the others? It depends, and it’s difficult to tell because they all look so much alike. The similarity is the price. With the exception of ThinkFree Office, which is not free, all the other office suites are free, including the grand daddy, OpenOffice.
You knew it would come to this, right? How about a good old Mac360-ish Feature Fist Fight™ between Microsoft’s new Office for Mac 2011 and Apple’s iWork suite?
If you’re wondering How iWork Can Replace Office 2011 for Mac, well it can’t. Unless you don’t have enough money for Office. If you do, Office wins the feature fist fight. Always. Usability? Let’s do a rematch.
Finally, our resident Microsoft guruess (a female guru, I guess) spent three whole days using Office for Mac 2011 and lived to write about it. The verdict shows up in the title: New Microsoft Office For Mac 2011: 3 Days Of Fun And Torture.
In the end, are there credible, affordable, useful alternatives to Microsoft Office? Yes. Many. Are they as good? It depends on what you mean by good. And, what you want. And, what you need. And, what you can afford. And, how much pain you can take.